Punjab: Sidhu Moose Wala's Murder Signals That Situation On Ground Is Grim

Punjab: Sidhu Moose Wala's Murder Signals That Situation On Ground Is Grim

by Rohit Pathania - May 30, 2022 07:23 PM +05:30 IST
Punjab: Sidhu Moose Wala's Murder Signals That Situation On Ground Is Grim Sidhu Moose Wala (Wikimedia Commons)
  • The stakes have risen considerably, and the security agencies cannot be seen merely as reactive forces.

Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, more popularly known as Sidhu Moose Wala, the famous Punjabi song writer, singer and composer, was shot dead a day after his police security was withdrawn. While the Aam Aadmi Party stands in the dock for this fatally callous mistake on their part, after the initial blunder however, the state government chose to bring in a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to chair the investigation into the murder, and ensure that if necessary, even the National Investigation Agency (NIA) can be asked to step in.

The moment serves as a reminder of the short but grey legacy of a singer who made waves on his own steam and did not get confined to being a one-hit wonder. It is also a moment to reflect upon what is going on in the Punjabi entertainment industry.

There was no mistaking the popularity of Sidhu Moose Wala.

The electoral defeat from Mansa in the 2022 assembly elections in Punjab served as a mere blip in an otherwise soaring career, where he managed to make Punjabi music popular and capture the imagination of the youth in and outside Punjab simultaneously.

One of the few to also breach the barrier across the border, he was equally famous in Pakistan’s Punjab and its diaspora for his no-holds-barred approach, with his popularity crossing the border, judging by the sense of grief expressed by people.

The Punjabi music and entertainment industry has to make its presence felt on every ‘Panthic’ matter. Like Diljit Dosanjh, Jazzy B, Hard Kaur and many others, Sidhu too had flirted with the separatist fire in his career to burnish his credentials as a Panthic Jatt. His song Punjab (My Motherland) had hailed Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and had also quoted a Dharam Yudh Morcha event speech by Bharpur Singh Balbir, the notorious Hindu-hater and Sikh supremacist, proclaiming that the Sikhs do not want to be pujaris at some Hindu temple.

But was there a moderation of his views?

The song 295, which coincides curiously with the numbers for the date of his assassination, is gaining traction among his fans. The song was linked to his criticism of Section 295A, which deals with blasphemy. Be-adbi of the saroops of Guru Granth Sahib ji, being a matter of great sensitivity in Punjab, was a rallying point for the Panth in many ways, and so to suggest that there are elements who were stoking religious fires to bolster their political fortunes is a message that has not been lost on people in general.

Another depressing narrative doing the rounds is that it his murder is the handiwork of Central agencies, who, like it was seen in the case of Deep Sidhu, were uncomfortable with his popularity.

This baseless allegation sadly has become the veneer to cover the elephant in the room. The Punjabi music and entertainment industry sees it as necessary to make its presence felt on every ‘Panthic’ matter, given the grip of extremist elements on the space.

Parmish Verma was shot in the leg at the behest of Dilpreet Singh Dhahan in 2018, exposing the underbelly of the industry. Guru Randhawa was trolled for not being ‘supportive enough’ of the protesting farmers at Singhu Border and also called a sellout for having donned the Indian Army uniform for a role in a Bollywood movie, (reminding him of Operation Bluestar). He had, in 2019, also been punched in the face during a concert in Vancouver, though he never pressed charges on it.

It also becomes a moment however to sit back and remember the vice-like grip of criminal mafia on the Punjabi music industry, and this criminal mafia’s intersection with the Khalistsani terrorists, thanks to the narcotics business which is being pushed massively to raise funding for the terrorist activities.

The high profile assassination has been claimed by notorious gangster Goldy Brar, who is partner to Delhi-based Lawrence Bishnoi.

Gangsters, known for mindless bloodshed, have been gaining strength in Punjab for a while, and Moose Wala’s murder finds an echo in an infamous case of the Eighties.

Amar Singh Chamkila, today remembered as a brilliant composer and singer, was shot dead in 1988 by unidentified assassins. It is widely believed that it was in all likelihood the handiwork of Khalistani terrorists. They had repeatedly threatened him for vulgarity in his songs and he was forced to live in Delhi for a while before being killed with his wife.

That was an era when Khalistanis were openly issuing diktats on the cultural agenda, with All India Sikh Students Federation factions warning people to follow a 13-point agenda - no drinking, no tweezing of eyebrows for girls or snipping of beards for boys, no selling or eating of meat, liquor or cigarettes, no dancing and music at weddings, no baraats that include more than 11 people, no participation in Hindu jagratas or all-night prayers, no fraternising with Radhasoami Sikhs, no school uniforms that are not saffron, black and white (for girls and boys) and no wearing (or making) of 'fashion clothes'.

All hell had broken loose, as these terrorists formed vigilante groups to deliver punishment on the spot, often in the form of assassinations.

This also brings us to another important point about the timing of Moose Wala’s murder.

Every artist in Punjab was being bullied effectively to cancel their events, concerts and movie releases by extremists to mark Ghallughara Divas, the name given to Operation Blue Star of 1984, for the month of June. Even those who have never given reasons to complain like Satinder Sartaaj, were effectively bullied into cancelling their concerts internationally for this very purpose.

In this bid to maintain a charged up atmosphere, with songs like 295 already in the backdrop, Moose Wala was an ideal target that achieved multiple objectives - reminding everyone who is boss; creating a martyr for the cause since Deep Sidhu has not been able to breach the wall, judging by the rumour mill about it being the handiwork of ‘agencies’; and also ensuring that people are reminded of Operation Blue Star.

Having joined the Congress, he would have been seen as a sellout, especially given the fact that Indira Gandhi was the reason for Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s death. The obviousness of it all can just not be missed.

The situation has become grim in Punjab, and there is a need to address the problem head on. Too much time is being wasted in politics and semantics, while security agencies are being reduced to reactive forces at best, which is clearly not acceptable given how the stakes have risen considerably.

Rohit Pathania works in the space of renewable energy and environment. Other interests include politics and the economy.
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